photo: Star Breeze, docked in St. Maarten next to a Royal Caribbean vessel // Photo by Susan J. Young

PHILIPSBURG – The under vaccinated crew of Windstar Cruise’s Star Breeze, the second ship to homeport in St. Maarten, has forced the cruise line to change its itinerary because of Covid related entry requirements of the destinations.

The cruise cancelled it scheduled 2 trips and will return to St. Maarten on July 10 after the crew is vaccinated. The company President Prelog confirmed this during a press conference.

Starting Saturday, June 19, Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze was set to begin its homeport operations from Port St. Maarten and end on Saturday, June 27. This is the second cruise company to homeport on the island. The 312 passenger ship is a mini luxury cruise line that was scheduled to make stops in St. Barths, Anguilla and four stops in the British Virgin Islands. However, in a recent statement Windstar Cruises announced that crew vaccination issues have forced it to drop most of the port call.

Fewer than 20 percent of the 178 crew members are vaccinated Cruise Critic reported. Full vaccinations need to be completed as a measure for entry by the islands.

Besides being vaccinated, St. Maarten requires all passengers and crew members to be tested by a maximum of 48 hours before returning to the port.

“Windstar was able to operate Star Breeze safely without vaccinated crew”, Windstar President Christopher Prelog said to Cruise Critic. “The group who comes onboard is vaccinated. The group who is onboard has been isolated.”

He also mentioned that the cruise line is working with local authorities and the islands in obtaining vaccines for the crew. According to St. Maarten Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor Omar Ottley, the island isn’t allowed to administer vaccines to the cruise at this time since they don’t meet the local requirement of being a resident. The cruise is expecting vaccines for its crew the following week.

To make up for the change in itinerary Windstar is offering its guests a refund or an opportunity to sail for free and according to Windstar’s director of public relations Sarah Scoltock, most travelers are taking the free sail. “So far, our guests are sticking with us”, Scoltock stated. In the meantime, the cruise is awaiting confirmation from other islands for port of calls and will make excursions in and around St. Maarten while also indulging guests with onboard activities.